POSMarket.com.au is a POS specialist offering a wide range of Point of Sales solutions including hardware and software for diverse applications. This article discusses the durability and functionality of barcodes.
In the current technological market, barcodes and scanning technologies are becoming increasingly sought after. With modern evolution, the amount of information and data structures that can be stored within the multi-line codes has increased exponentially.
However, the successful use of barcode technology is less straightforward than is easily identified. Rather, the proper implementation is dependent on a series of factors.
To properly evaluate the potential of the technology in conditions where the durability of the codes would be tested, factors such as how the data is to be collected as well as the nature of the environment in which it will be utilised must be taken into account.
Factors of Resistance
Plastics and pressure sensitive adhesives are mainly thermoplastic materials that react to heat when pressure is applied. When applied to a cylindrical surface, an amount of the adhesive will always be pressed out on the sides of the applied label, leading to sagging, deformation and a need for cleaning that will deform the applied barcode, rendering the label defective and useless.
Material printed labels that use direct thermal technology are also capable of falling victim to sunlight and environment heat sources. The thermal transferring ink is prone to a loss of cohesion when exposed to a constant heat source.
It is therefore wise to state the maximum temperatures for use on the provided barcode if it is expected to be exposed to the elements.
Cold temperatures can be defined as either the environmental temperature (surrounding the label) or the temperature of the face itself. As labels will often be found in cryogenic areas, it is important to take into account the differences between the two.
If a barcode label is applied in a standard environment, and then introduced to extreme cold or heat, a differential in the temperatures between the face and the adhesive will form. This will lead to a loss of adhesive potentials causing the bond with the product to fail. For any product exposed to cold (10 degrees Fahrenheit or lower) freezer grade adhesives are necessary to guarantee permanence.
Scanning technology can be blinded by reflections of sunlight. To prevent the potential for a misread, barcodes are generated with a matte surface. Additionally, performing a scan at an angle rather than direct to the unit can prevent the equipment from picking up additional light sources from the barcode's surface.
Increasing Label Life Expectancy
Beyond making use of polyester and acrylic adhesives, the lifespan of a label can be increased dramatically if UV lamination is applied to the surface.
Most if not all label environments are exposed to alkaline bases (mainly found in cleaning solutions) that erode the label's stock and adhesive. To prevent this lamination can be applied, and prior testing can indicate chemical weaknesses of the materials to be disclosed to the customer.
Teflon, polypropylene, kapton and polyamides allow for longer lifespan in environments where the abrasion rate is exceptionally high. Metal labels can be used, however, the more durable materials listed above will allow for a higher tolerance.
Humidity and Moisture
A label exposed to moisture and humidity (or even a wet environment) will often distort and detach from its host object. By over-laminating a label, water resistance can be created, extending the lifetime of the label dramatically.
Solvent exposure occurs, not on the face of the barcode but on its edges. Use of cleaning products and some environmental chemicals will erode the stock the label was printed on and the adhesive.
Grease, Oil and Grime
Often, a label application occurs on an object whose surface area is greasy or oily. To prevent the absorption of the slick substances by the adhesive, clean the applicable area thoroughly before the application of the label.
When a label has only a portion of its allocated adhesive or when the surface area is rough or uneven, a label's adhesion will be adversely effected.
Only when the adhesive matches the potential of 90% of the surface area can a solid connection to the host material be achieved.
Scanner Technology Matching
To adequately perform a scan, the technologies must be matched, label to scanner. A short range scanner intended for 2-3 inch barcode identification will be thoroughly useless in recognising a label from 30 feet away. Likewise, a large scale reader is helpless in identifying the code in a close range product barcode.
Barcode Density (Space Limitations)
Current industry standards require that industrial and telecommunications labels be minuscule and compact, while still managing to retain all of the required information. Modern scanning technology is required to be able to read these high density labels without error.
Modern scanning technology is auto-discriminating. The symbology used in a barcode can therefore be dictated by either the customer or the manufacturer. RFID as well as 2D are current contenders for the most widely utilised symbology methods.
The quality control methods of a site should include practices to prevent the production of lower quality or defective labels. Instances where products cannot be read by the equipment on site can be avoided by this basic methodology.
Staff Training and Systems Education
Due to the nature of retail consumption and reproduction of barcodes, the only means to continue to educate customers and consumers to the nature of canning technology and its practices are through continuous education of staff.
The key to a continuous cycle of effective scanning is to utilise all of the above measures and checks. When each becomes a regular process for the utilisation of barcodes, flawless creation and implementation of scanning technologies becomes commonplace.